I stared out the window of my bedroom and sighed. I love winter time. The way that right after Thanksgiving – or even sometimes before – the decorations start popping up. The lights twinkling at me we drive down the street. The way everything just feels so much happier. Jollier.
Waking up to the smell of sugar cookies and pumpkin spiced everything was like a dream come true. Did that make me a basic bitch? Well, then sign me up for some Uggs and leggings cause I’m all in.
“Maxine.” My mom smiled at me as I popped into the kitchen. She stopped stirring the bowl in front of her and came around the table to hug me.
I let her envelop me tightly, my eyes closing as I breathed her in. “Hi, mom, and please, Max? Maxine is an old lady playing Bingo. Whatcha making?” I opened my eyes to sneak a peek at the bowl and saw the spoon still moving all by itself. Sniffing, I pulled back from her. “So, we’re just doing magic out in the open now, are we?”
Mom smiled and moved back to the table, rolling her eyes. “I’ve always done magic. You just never noticed it before.”
“Like what?” I arched a brow.
She took hold of the spoon, mixing the mixture I knew from sight and smell that it was her famous pumpkin spice pancakes. “Little things. Like household chores – dishes, laundry, dusting.” She shrugged a shoulder like it was no big deal.
I pursed my lips and then smacked them together dramatically. “You’re telling me that all this time, I thought you were the dutiful housewife never complaining about housework and you’ve been cheating?” I opened the fridge and grabbed a soda before popping the top and taking a drink.
“Not cheating just ... utilizing good time management.” She looked over her shoulder at me and then winked. “You should see what I can do in the bedroom.”
Liquid acid flew up my nose. I slammed my can down on the counter as I tried to relearn to breath. There was nothing worse than soda up the nose. Okay, maybe the monthly gut stabbing pains of being a woman trumped it, but it wasn’t far behind it.
“Are you okay?” Mom turned from the bowl long enough to make sure I was still breathing.
Grabbing a hand towel hanging from the stove handle, I wiped my face and nodded. “Physically, yes. Mentally, scarred.”
“Pfft.” Mom grabbed the towel from my hands and swatted me with it. “Let’s be honest. That happened long before this conversation.”
What could I say? She was right. Letting it go, I picked up my soda can and moved to the center island where my mom had set up her last stand. “What’s all this?” I gestured a hand at the overly large quantity of baked goods and stuffing mix. “Planning on feeding an army?”
Mom rolled her eyes, her mouth no longer smiling, the skin pulled tight as she frowned. “No, worse, your grandparents.”
My eyes brightened, and I bounced on my heels. “Grandpa and Mame are coming?” My dad’s parents were the coolest of cool when it came to grandparents. We’re talking ice cream for breakfast, buying all the latest toys, nothing was too much for their only grandchild. My brows drew together in confusion. “But I thought they were in France for Christmas this year? They promised to send me an éclair.”
“I wish.” Mom offered me a small smile, and it took me longer than it should have for me to figure out the reason for her displeasure.
“Oh. Your parents are coming.” I bobbed my head and swallowed another sip of my soda. I paused for a moment my eyes staring at the fake holly hanging over the kitchen window by the table. “Why?”
“Why what?” Mom continued to stir even though we both knew it was far past done. It was something for her to do because she had nothing else to do and not because she had too.
“Why are they coming? Did you invite them?” I turned around, so my elbows rested on the island, my eyes watching her face intently. Her eyes were the same cerulean blue as mine. I had inherited the same blonde hair from her as well. I often wondered if it was our magical genes that made me take after her rather than my father’s Egyptian genes. I’d sometimes wish that I had taken after him. Dark almond-shaped eyes, silky ebony hair, hell at least I wouldn’t have to lather on half a bottle of sunscreen when I went to the beach. However, wishing was a bit like magic. You never knew what you would actually end up with.
“No, I didn’t invite them. They invited themselves.” Mom sighed and sat down her spoon with more force than necessary, making it bounce off the counter and onto the floor. “Crap.” She bent down to grab it, her elbow whacking the bowl and sending it to the ground with a thud. “Shit! See, this is what happens when my parents get involved. I get all ...” She waved her hand in the air as she sat the bowl and spoon back on the island. “... frazzled.”
“This is my fault.” I sighed and fiddled with a package of walnuts. “I’m the one who said I’d sit down and talk to them but then never followed through.”
“No, it’s not. Don’t blame yourself.” Mom moved in closer, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. “This is what they do. They slither their way in, sink their claws into you, and never let go.”
“Which was why you severed all ties with them in the first place. I should have told them to shove it the moment they showed up at my school demanding me change everything about me for their high society bullshit.”
Mom hugged me tighter to her side and then let go with a sigh of her own. “You didn’t know what you were getting into. The only grandparents you’ve ever know have been great, so why wouldn’t another set be?” She grinned at me as she started to spoon the contents of her bowl onto a cookie sheet. “Don’t you have plans with Callie today?”
I could pick up on a diversion when I heard one. Mom didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Not that I blamed her. Soon, we’d have our problem right in our face, and we couldn’t ignore it. Better to hold onto that denial as long as possible.
“Uh yeah, she’s picking me up—” A horn blared outside our two-story house, and I grinned. “Right now.”
“Subtle, isn’t she?” Mom smirked and chuckled.
Laughing with her, I grabbed my purse and then gave her a quick hug before heading for the door. “I’ll be back in time for lights!”
Sadly, we weren’t looking at a white Christmas here in Atlanta, Georgia. The air cooled enough to need long sleeves but not so much that we could hope for white powder to line the ground. Another thing that I had learned to stop wishing for.
Callie laid on her horn once more and yelled, “Get a move on! We’re gonna miss all the last-minute sales!”
I grinned at the brunette revving the engine of her bright cherry red ‘65 convertible. “You think you could make an any bigger scene? I think my classmates down at the Academy could hear you flagging me down.” I climbed into the seat next to her, shoving a pair of sunglasses on my face.
If I was a basic bitch, then Callie was the very definition of diva. Her hair was fluffed to beauty pageant height, her make-up was always on point, and her clothes were those of a fashionista slumming it with the rest of us lowly peasants. Not that she would ever call us any of those things. Callie might look the part of the rich and snobby, something my maternal grandparents would love, but her father was a local mechanic, hence the awesome wheels, while her mother was an outlet boutique owner, hence the fashion-forward clothing.
Today’s ensemble included large framed sunglasses that made her look like Audrey Hepburn, a pearl necklace over a black off the shoulder sweater and a pair of skin-tight jeans that I would have ripped in the first five minutes of wearing them. Of course, it was all topped off with three-inch Prada heels from three seasons ago, the only way either of us would ever be able to afford anything that high class. Though, now that I thought about it, my maternal grandparents probably would have been able to afford this season’s line.
“What’s the point of being this classically beautiful if I don’t let the world know I’m here?” Callie flipped her hair over her shoulder with a throaty laugh and revved the engine once more before pulling away from the curb.
“So, what’s on the agenda today?” I shifted in my seat so I could pull my hair into a ponytail. Convertibles were great but not so much for the hair. Callie had to have a bottle and a half of hairspray in hers to keep from turning into Frankenstein’s bride.
“Oh, I thought we’d do a little shopping, maybe get our toes done, and then ...” She glanced over at me with a mischievous grin.
“Uh, oh. I know that look.”
“What look?” Callie’s grin dropped slightly but was still there as she watched the road.
“That I know you have dirt and I want to hear all about it.” I pointed a finger at her with an accusatory tone. “Well, I’ll have you know that I don’t have anything to tell. So, you’re tough out of luck.”
Callie pouted and slumped in her seat. “You’re no fun.”
“I’m plenty of fun.” I shot back. “I’m just not the ‘kiss and tell every single detail of my love life’ kind of fun. Besides, I’ve been told enough details today to last me a lifetime.” I shuddered as I remembered my mother’s little slip up about her and dad. T.M.I.
“Come on,” Callie whined. “You have four sexy hot wizards totally thirsty for your sweet behind, and you can’t tell me you haven’t done anything with any of them?”
“Of course, I have, but you already know that bit,” I reminded her. I’d already kissed two of the four guys from school, and I almost had kissed a third. The fourth, well, Aidan was an interesting character. I wasn’t quite sure what to think of him. He was gorgeous in a huge muscle man kind of way but was also quiet. I didn’t know much of anything about him besides the fact that my ovaries wanted to have his love child. However, he hadn’t said one way or the other if he was interested in me in that way, not like the others had.
“Remind me again who you’ve kissed?” Callie asked. I knew she remembered but just wanted to live vicariously through me. Apparently, the hotties at Brown weren’t near enough to please her royal highness.
“Dale and Paul.”
“And Dale’s the brother?”
“No,” I shook my head, pulling out my phone to find a picture I had not so stalkerly taken when he wasn’t looking. “Dale is the redhead who works in the headmaster’s office. Paul is the one with the brother.”
Callie let out a girly sigh. “Man, you have all the luck. First, you find out you’re a witch and get to go to this really cool school to learn to turn pigs into frogs.” Callie paused to stop the car in the parking lot of the mall.
“Why would I want to do that?” I interjected, getting out of my side of the car.
“I don’t know, just because? But that’s beside the point.” She waved a hand at me to hush as she slung her purse over her shoulder. “So, not even counting the fact that you get to do magic, you also have not one, not two, but four guys who want your goodies.”
I rolled my eyes and pretend vomited in my mouth. “Can we not talk about my lady parts as if they are something you can get at the store?”
Callie made a face. “Fine, your vagina. Happy?” I nodded and grinned. “Anyway, you have four totally hot wizards just dying to stick their wand in your cauldron.”
I groaned. “Puns, please. No puns.”
Callie ignored me and continued. “However, you haven’t even so much as let one feel you up. I mean, at least you got to cross wands with a couple of them, but if I were in your position, I’d have at least had them whip out their wands so I could measure them against each other.”
“Not going to happen,” I told her, refusing to acknowledge her deliberate use of the word wands for their genitalia. “Besides, after the last guy I let ... into my cauldron, I’m not sure I want anyone going near it.”
“Pfft. That was ages ago.” Callie held the door open for me as we walked into the bustle sounds of the mall. The smell of pretzels and sales wafted through the air, and I already felt the stress of this conversation falling away.
“It might be ages ago to you, but to me, it was still very much just last year. It’s going to take more than a few magic tricks and a hot bod to get over my first love.”
I didn’t add that a couple of kisses from Dale and Paul had indeed rocked my world and helped very much get me well on my way to forgetting about my first serious boyfriend and taker of my virginity, Jaron, who had dumped me shortly after for Western College shores. She also didn’t need to know that I had been texting Dale the majority of winter break or that Ian had been late night texting me quotes from his favorite poetry ... along with some mouth-watering shirtless pictures of him reading said poetry. Anyone who said the Broomstein brothers didn’t know how to woo a girl was so completely mistaken.
“Alright, alright. I’ll lay off.” Callie held her hands up in surrender. “But the moment you go from playing friends to actual boyfriends, I better be the first one to hear it.” She shot me a warning look that I only half took seriously.
“You got it.” I fired off a finger gun at her and then looped my arm with her. “Okay, let’s get this shopping spree underway. I have some major stress relieving to do.”
“You and me both, sister.” Callie giggled and skipped us toward the first of many stores to come.